A letter from the US Forest Service’s new Chief, Randy Moore, dated August 17, 2021 could lead a person to believe that Federal firefighters might be restricted from traveling to wildfire assignments. The initiative apparently stemmed from a July 29, 2021 White House statement:
Anyone who does not attest to being fully vaccinated will be required to wear a mask on the job no matter their geographic location, physically distance from all other employees and visitors, comply with a weekly or twice weekly screening testing requirement, and be subject to restrictions on official travel.
The Chief Moore document says all federal agencies are working to establish specific safety protocols for fully vaccinated individuals and those who are not fully vaccinated. These protocols will be consistent with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) July 27, 2021 guidance and align with the revised model safety principles from the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force.
The last link above is from, Safer Federal Workforce Task Force COVID-19 Workplace Safety: Agency Model Safety Principles, Issued July 29, 2021. Here is the section on travel:
Federal employees should adhere strictly to CDC guidelines before, during, and after travel.
For Federal employees who are fully vaccinated, there are no Government-wide restrictions on travel (although agency travel policies still apply).
For Federal employees who are not fully vaccinated or who decline to provide information about their vaccination status, official domestic travel should be limited to only necessary mission-critical trips. International travel should also be avoided, if at all possible, unless it is mission critical (e.g., military deployments, COVID-19 response deployments or activities, diplomats traveling, high-level international negotiations that cannot occur remotely). Heads of agencies should issue specific guidance to account for the particulars of their agency’s mission.
So after wading through all those documents, including a post from Chief Moore that triggered this journey of discovery, it at first appears that only “mission critical” travel will be allowed unless you are an international diplomat or a member of the military.
But all this is left up in the air, for now, since the letter says, instead of using clear text, the USFS is “moving forward … to establish specific safety protocols.”
Of course if the five federal agencies that fight wildland fire simply decree that firefighting is “mission critical”, end of discussion.
Meanwhile firefighting goes on, but with reduced numbers of available firefighters.